Duch ‘Ready To Reveal’ Crimes Of KR Regime

Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, ad­mitted that he was the head of the Khmer Rouge’s notorious torture prison S-21 and said that he is ready to reveal the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge, according to his provisional detention order, which was released Wednesday by Khmer Rouge tribunal judges.

Judges Tuesday charged Duch, whose name is also transliterated as Kaing Khek Iev, with committing crimes against hum­anity, and ordered him detained for up to one year on the grounds that there are “well-founded” reasons to believe he is guilty.

Detention is also necessary to ensure that he doesn’t flee, to protect his personal safety and to preserve public order, the judges found.

Duch’s lawyer noted that all other suspects remain at large and requested that his client, who has been held without trial in military prison since 1999, be released on bail, according to the 11-page document.

“Duch states that he was indeed the Head of S21, that because he is ready to reveal the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge there is no reason to believe that he will exert pressure on witnesses and, moreover, he does not know the identity of any witnesses,” the order read.

Duch’s lawyer Kar Savuth said Wednesday that he could not comment on whether the detention order would be appealed because he was under instructions from the ECCC not to speak to the press. “If I talk about him, I will be charged with a crime,” he said.

The detention order also further detailed the charges against Duch, who is the first of five suspects named by tribunal prosecutors earlier this month to be questioned and detained by the court. The names of the other suspects have yet to be released.

“Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch is accused of directing the Security Prison S-21 between 1975 and 1979 where, under his authority, countless abuses were allegedly committed against the civilian population (arbitrary detention, torture and other inhumane acts, mass executions, etc), which occurred within a political context of widespread or systematic abuses and constitute crimes against humanity,” co-investigating judges You Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde wrote in the order.

“He is implicated by many documents and several witnesses,” they added.

According to the document, Duch’s lawyer argued that a pre-trial detention of eight years violates both Cambodi­an law and international standards, but after a lengthy legal discussion, the judges concluded that the crimes Duch is ac­cused of are so grievous that re­leasing him might disrupt Cambo­dia’s “fragile” public order and compromise his personal safety.

One of the most pressing questions now is what Duch might say once he takes the stand.

In a 1999 interview with reporter Nate Thayer, published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Duch freely implicated Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ta Mok and Son Sen in the carnage that claimed some 1.7 million lives from 1975 to 1979.

Nuon Chea, the movement’s chief ideologue, and Khieu Sam­phan, its head of state, are believed to be both among top candidates for prosecution at the tribunal. Ta Mok, a notoriously brutal Khmer Rouge commander, died in 2006, and former Khmer Rouge defense minister Son Sen was executed, along with his family, under orders from Pol Pot in 1997.

Youk Chhang, the director of the Documentation Center of Cambo­dia, who has seen other transcripts of interviews with Duch, which he said had been submitted to the court and are thus confidential, said that Duch served as a key link be­tween cadres on the ground and the regime’s top leadership.

Duch, he said, “links what happened at lower levels with the leadership. He is the middle person, the joint.”

Nic Dunlop, author of “The Lost Executioner,” which details how he found Duch in 1999, after two dec­ades of anonymity, said by e-mail Wednesday that much would hinge on whether Duch would reiterate his earlier statements or seek to hide behind claims that he was just following orders.

“His testimony should be a pivotal moment if he does speak the truth on the stand, and so it could be very damaging. He was central to the mechanics of the killings and can explain how the Khmer Rouge killing operated and who was re­sponsible,” Dunlop wrote.

Mey Makk, deputy governor of Pailin municipality and a former Khmer Rouge cadre, said that few in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold were worried by Duch’s detention.

“There is nothing to worry about because they did nothing wrong,” he said.

Few were surprised by the decision to charge Duch, who is thought to have overseen the torture of some 14,000 prisoners—80 percent of whom were former Khmer Rouge members, according to Youk Chhang—before sending them to their deaths in the kil­ling fields outside Phnom Penh.

But even this progress has not silenced skeptics.

“We hope that charging Duch is the start of real progress on the trials. It’s been far too long in coming. But it was impossible not to charge him, as he was already in custody and has confessed to his crimes in media interviews. The first real test is whether Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thi­rith are soon charged and arrested,” Brad Adams, Asia Director for Human Rights Watch, wrote in an e-mail from London.

Adams added that real justice—and a true justification for the court’s $56-million price tag—would mean going after more than just five top leaders, as well as making decisions based clearly on evidence, not politics.

But Piper Campbell, the Charge d’Affairs at the US Embassy, said charging Duch was a “welcome step forward.”

“The US strongly supports bringing to justice senior leaders responsible for the atrocities committed under the Khmer Rouge regime,” she said in an e-mail.

The US has yet to commit funding directly to the court, which is facing a budget shortfall.

Meanwhile, Japan, the tribunal’s largest donor, reaffirmed its support for the court Wednesday.

“Japan has been supporting the Khmer Rouge Trials to the fullest extent, in view that its realization is instrumental for establishing Cam­bodia’s rule of law as well as achieving justice for Cambodian victims,” Kaori Yoshimatsu, third secretary at the Embassy of Japan, wrote by e-mail.


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